England Under-21 Analysis - England 1-2 Czech Republic - Midfield the downfall as Young Lions eliminated
England 1 (Welbeck 76)
Czech Rep 2 (Chramosta 89, Pekhart 90+4)
With the England Under-21s needing a win to keep their qualification hopes alive, Stuart Pearce again altered his formation and made three changes to personnel. Michael Mancienne and Danny Rose, two players who had struggled in the tournament thus far, were replaced in the starting line-up by Fabrice Muamba and Scott Sinclair - the latter’s inclusion indicating that Stuart Pearce wanted a more direct threat on the left flank. Tom Cleverley came in for Jack Rodwell as the England midfield changed shape.
As a loan forward, Danny Welbeck provided a steady pivot for England’s midfield to link up with. Daniel Sturridge was deployed in a slightly deeper position, which again detained him from significant time in front of goal, but managed to penetrate the Czech defensive line with timely bursts beyond the main point of attack. The first of which saw Sturridge denied a goal by the offside flag, before him then testing Tomas Vaclick’s reflexes from range.
In the build up to Welbeck’s goal, England had displayed patience in possession - something that seemed foreign to them in the previous group games - which allowed them to unsettle the defensive shape of Czech Republic. Moving what had become a settled system behind the ball from one side of the field to the other presented England vital extra seconds on the ball, which proved useful prior to Sturridge’s fine cross for the goal.
Having took the lead, the composure England showed in creating the goal evaporated. Despite being ineffective as a creative force in the tournament, England had been resilient in defence, but that escaped them when it was needed the most. Marcel Gecov’s swivel on the edge of the area was exquisite, but having got into a position where he was able to contest the ball, Lansbury needed to ensure that the tackle was made. Having beaten Lansbury’s attempted block, Gecov’s cross then deflected off Welbeck, which directed the ball into the path of Jan Chramosta to equalise. England’s defensive capitulation was complete when Tomas Pekhart sealed a remarkable win in injury time.
Throughout the tournament, the midfield area was the centre stage for poor performances by the England Under-21 team. Mancienne struggled in a holding role, Rodwell failed to build on his impressive appearance as a substitute against Spain in the following game, and Jordan Henderson’s displays gradually declined to a level that Pearce could no longer persevere with him. The key area to any team was England’s weakest and also the most rearranged department, which resulted in the team showing precious little continuity when it came to style of play or building attacks; England’s forays into the final third lacked anything more than a basic understanding between Sturridge and Welbeck.
Walker – Smalling – Jones – Bertrand
Henderson – Muamba
Cleverley – Sturridge – Sinclair
64- Lansbury on for Henderson
77- Albrighton on for Cleverley
87- Rose on for Sinclair